Pesaha Appam: A Syrian-Christian Delicacy From Kerala For Lent
Image Credit: Kerala Tourism/X

Among the variety of delicacies that are especially created to commemorate an occasion, the Pesaha appam finds a special place in the culinary canvas of Kerala’s regional cuisine. Known to be of utmost significance in the Syrian Christian or Saint Thomas Christian community of the state, the special dish is traditionally prepared by the eldest female member in a family. Also known as indri or inri appam or Kurisappam, the ‘bread’ is typically paired with a dipping accompaniment known as paal – as a reference to the usage of coconut milk being one of the key ingredients.

Eaten during the night hours, tradition dictates that the batter be prepared earlier in the day, with special prayers offered while placing the cross on top of the batter before it is steamed. What also makes this cross special is that it is made with a young coconut leaf that is blessed by a priest on Oshana Sunday. The thick, dense appam made using a mixture of rice flour and soaked urad dal, is also flavoured with chopped onions, green chillies, cumin, garlic and coconut paste – which gives it a predominantly savoury flavour. When paired with the paalkurukku, made using coconut milk and jaggery, the delicacy has a sweet-savoury contrast.

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As one of the key components of a Pesaha or Passover meal, the significance of the appam dovetails to the story in the holy Bible where the Jews recall the covenant made with God after they were freed from captivity in Egypt. As Jesus passed around bread at the supper he had with his followers, they were asked to believe that the bread was a direct embodiment of God himself. Back in Kerala, the Pesaha appam is of great importance – so much so, that even a tiny piece of it isn’t allowed to spill when it is broken into.

Image Credits: Wikipedia

Ingredients [For Appam]

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • ¼ cup urad dal, soaked for 2 hours
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3-5 shallots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1.5 cups water
  • Salt, to taste

Ingredients [For Paal]

  • 400 grams jaggery, crushed
  • 4 cups coconut milk


  • Grind the soaked urad dal to a smooth paste using some water and transfer to a bowl.
  • In the same blender, add the coconut, onions and garlic to blitz to a smooth paste that can also be transferred to the bowl holding the ground urad dal.
  • Bring the water to a boil in a clean saucepan and gradually add the rice flour to keep mixing until you have a smooth paste.
  • Add the coconut-urad dal mixture to the rice flour paste, along with the cumin seeds and salt, to form the consistency of thick idli batter.
  • Grease a tin with coconut oil and transfer the batter to the container and steam for 20-25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add the jaggery with some water to a pan and melt into a syrup that you can strain through a fine mesh to remove lumps.
  • Add the coconut milk to the jaggery syrup while still warm and stir to combine. Serve alongside the appam, once ready.

Note: If you want to thicken the syrup slightly, add a couple of tablespoons of the mixture to some rice flour to make a slurry and add it back to the pan and simmer on a low heat until you get the desired consistency.